Pot left on stove causes Virginia Street house fire

Firefighters work a fire at a home in the 1700 block of Virginia Street on Nov. 11. Photo: Citizen reporter

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A homeowner who put a cleaned pot on the stove burner to dry and then went to bed got a rude awakening Monday morning when his house caught on fire.

Berkeley Fire Department responded to a report of a house fire in the 1700 block of Virginia Street (at McGee) at 12:33 a.m. Nov. 11, according to BFD Assistant Fire Chief Keith May. When firefighters arrived, they spotted a fire in the attic and eaves of the single-story residence, he said. They put the fire out quickly, but not before the house sustained $100,000 to $200,000 in damage, said May.

The homeowner forgot he had put the pot on an open flame to dry, said May. A fire erupted and caught on the wall near the stove, which happened to be by a utility closet. The construction of the closet meant the flames quickly spread to the attic, May said.


Firefighters work a fire at a home in the 1700 block of Virginia Street on Nov. 11. Photo: Citizen reporter

The homeowner tried unsuccessfully to douse the flames with a fire extinguisher, said May. He suffered some minor damage from inhaling smoke but declined to be transported to the hospital.

In another matter, numerous Berkeley residents reported hearing a loud boom and seeing a flash earlier on Sunday night. May said BFD got a report of an explosion and smell around Francisco and Grant streets at 9:47 p.m. Nov 10. Both fire officials and police officers investigated, but could not find any smoke, or flames or smell, he said. The officials cleared the scene by 10:06 p.m.

Update: A friend of the homeowner contacted Berkeleyside after the publication of this story and said the homeowner was confused when he told fire officials that he had left a pot on the stove.

“Your article regarding the cause of the Virginia Street fire is incorrect,” Adam Lehman said in an email. “I am good friends with Craig Smith, the property owner, and spoke to two people who were at the dinner party and who did the dishes and cleaning afterwards. They both said that they had hand washed and dried all pots, plates and silverware and that there was nothing left on the stove. I also spoke to the son of the owner who said that at the time of your interview, Mr. Smith had just been treated by Paramedics and that what he said was taken not only out of context but was taken at a time when he was in no state to be interviewed.”

[Ed: Berkeleyside’s report was based on information from the Berkeley Fire Department, who interviewed the homeowner. We did not interview the homeowner.]